New Guards for Old Machines – Extending Operating Life


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Fitting new guards to old machines can be a cost-effective way to ensure that machinery meets current regulatory requirements so that its service life can be extended. In this article Jeremy Procter, a Member of BSI’s MCE/3 committee, former Convenor of the European Standards Committee responsible for Machine Guards (CEN TC114 WG11), and Managing Director of Procter Machine Safety explains what needs to be considered when upgrading machinery guards.

procter_pr146_bespoke_guards-s.jpgMany companies today are delaying the purchase of new machine tools or special-purpose machinery, choosing instead to extend the operating life of older machinery. Other companies are opting to buy pre-owned machinery as a cost-effective alternative to new equipment. In either case, it is essential that the machinery meets the requirements of current regulations such as the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. One aspect of machinery that has a major influence on the safety of workers is the physical guarding.

As the UK’s leading machine guarding specialist, Procter Machine Guarding can survey machinery, design custom guards and install them. When undertaking such work, the designers ensure that the new guards comply with all of the applicable standards, such as BS EN 953 (Safety of machinery. Guards. General requirements for the design and construction of fixed and movable guards) and BS EN ISO 13857 (Safety of machinery – Safety distances to prevent hazard zones being reached by upper and lower limbs). In addition, guards being retrofitted to older machinery are designed so that they do not hinder production, as guards that are inconvenient to use can encourage operators and maintenance staff to attempt to override interlocks or remove the guards altogether. In contrast, well-designed guards can help to reduce the time required for set-up, operation, cleaning and maintenance.

If new guards are being designed, customers have the option to incorporate swarf handling or coolant management systems that will further improve uptime. Moving guards can also be manually operated or powered, with windows or portholes incorporated to provide a good view of the process being safeguarded. All guards are designed to be sufficiently robust for the intended operating environment, with a tough polyester powder coated finish in the customer’s choice of colour. A new set of guards can enhance the aesthetics of a machine significantly, making a positive impact on operatives and visitors alike.

While manufacturing companies sometimes possess the necessary resources to design and install guards in-house, Procter Machine Safety is highly experienced in this specialised and safety-critical area, so can usually undertake a project more cost-effectively than the customer. Moreover, the designers’ experience enables factors such as ergonomics to be taken into account more satisfactorily. Installation can take place on a weekend or another planned shutdown so as to minimise disruption and, in many cases, avoid any loss of production.

If required, the guarding design and supply service can be expanded into a full machinery safety service. Depending on the customer’s requirements this can include a PUWER assessment, risk assessment, and design, specification and installation of all necessary machinery safety measures. This might, for example, extend to safety light curtains, pressure-sensitive mats and an upgraded safety-related control system. And even if this comprehensive machinery safety service is utilised, the resultant cost will be far less than the cost of investing in an all-new machine.

To discuss any requirements relating to new guarding for older machinery, please email Procter Machine Safety at or telephone us.